Going zero waste might seem like a massive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be!
No one is saying you have to throw out all your non-zero waste items/products – in fact, it’s actually less ‘zero waste’ if you do! It’s much better to use what you have, and then when it comes time to replace things, swap out landfill-bound items for more sustainable ones.
Doing this will not only ensure you use up everything you have until it’s gone, which in term will be better for the environment, but it can also help lessen the amount of stress you feel to switch your lifestyle.
Listen, I get it: now that you know, you can’t un-know, and you want to get started on being the new you ASAP. That is fantastic news – the world needs as many eco-heroes as it can get! But instead of creating more unneeded waste, start slow, and build up your eco-friendly life one thing at a time.
To get you started, I’ve listed 2 zero waste recipes you can switch your store-bought items for the next time you finish them. Keep in mind, that while these DIY recipes are better for the environment, they may not work exactly the same as store-bought products. But, I don’t want you to fret, I’ve tested and used both, and they still get the job done!
- 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
- 1 Tbsp Baking Soda
- 4 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil (Optional)
First up, is this zero waste toothpaste. This recipe is great, because it only has 3 ingredients (or 2), and comes together in less than 5 minutes! (Assuming you don’t have to run around your house or go to the store to order the ingredients) Just mix together all the ingredients in a jar, or storage container, and boom, you’re done. What could be easier than that?
Another great thing about this toothpaste is: you know exactly what’s in it! Not only that, but you’ll get the same benefits as traditional toothpaste, without all the unnecessary added ingredients or manmade chemicals!
Baking soda is actually the ingredient traditional toothpastes use to clean your teeth, and it’s also been used as a whitening agent. (You can use baking soda both as a whitening agent for laundry [which will be talked about below] and for teeth)
The coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and it’s a natural alternative to other manmade chemical-laded antimicrobial products, which means it’s naturally healthier for you. Being a natural ingredient not only means it’s SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) free, but it’s also been shown to inhibit the growth of bad mouth bacteria, like s. mutans (Streptococcus mutans is the official name). These s mutans are one of the major bacteria’s that cause plaque and tooth decay due to their acidity.
SLS and SLES are foaming agents that are often found in shampoos, soaps, etc. They are the reason for all the bubbles/suds you get when you lather, however, they have been shown to cause allergic reactions (which is something I found out the hard way when testing some Lush shampoo), and, when used in toothpastes, they can actually mess with your taste buds!
The peppermint essential oil may seem like it’s just there to give you a better flavour, which is right – it will give you that classic mint-y clean feel you’re used to, but peppermint essential oil has a lot of other great benefits as well! One of which, is giving your energy levels a boost. I’m not too sure on the exact science as to why it gives you an energy boost (I haven’t done too much research into essential oils yet), but I can definitely attest to it working!
Whether that’s a matter of placebo or not is yet to be determined, but in either case, it will definitely make this homemade toothpaste taste better (without, it will taste like baking soda + coconut oil, which is pretty salty and not in a good way), so if nothing else, you could still use it for that.
I’ve been using this homemade toothpaste since April 2021, and aside from the saltiness the first time using it (I didn’t add enough peppermint), I don’t really have any complaints. It works great! The only thing to note is that because the base is coconut oil, it may solidify, or liquefy depending on the temperature. This is completely normal, and you can still use it in either state.
However, if you need it more solid (or less solid), you can either pop the jar into the fridge, or run it under hot water, or, place it in front of a vent/near something hot for a few minutes. You may also need to re-stir the coconut oil and baking soda together if it liquefies.
*Important: Make sure if you’re using essential oil, you get one that says it’s safe to consume. Some of them say to not use orally!
2. Laundry Cubes/Toilet Cleaner
I know how this sounds, but baking soda + vinegar can be used to clean just about anything, and these cubes are perfect for a lot of those different uses!
I originally made these cubes after wanting to switch my man-made chemical-filled laundry detergent. I had discovered the world of soap nuts, but while I was on my quest to get my hands on some (apparently the native-to-Canada ones can’t be sold/bought because they’re protected), I still had to do laundry.
Since I had already learned vinegar + baking soda was strong enough to clean a toilet bowl, and bath tub, I figured it was strong enough to clean my not-that-dirty everyday clothing. I did a bit of research anyway, and discovered vinegar and baking soda were used often in conjunction with conventional laundry detergents to help up their oomph.
I learned baking soda was often used to make white clothes whiter, and vinegar was a natural way to eliminate odours, brighten and even soften clothing. This is because it contains acetic acid, which also makes it a disinfectant, antibacterial, and anti-a-lot-of-other things. (This is why vinegar can be used to clean so many household items)
After learning that, I figured what the hell, and decided to try doing a load. The load I did was of my reusable pads, and while I was a little skeptical when they went in, I was really impressed with how they came out! The mixture had gotten all of the blood stains (‘gross!’ I know, but that’s just what happens when you get blood in fabric) out, and had completely eliminated that used pad smell. In fact, when I pulled them out of the washer, they didn’t smell like anything. There was no ‘this is clean’ fake laundry detergent scent, but they also no longer had that ‘we’re dirty’ smell – they were neutral.
It may have also been my imagination, or the agitation from just being in the washing machine, but they also felt more ‘fluffy’ then when I had tossed them in. I don’t know if it was for sure the baking soda and vinegar, but the next load I tried I did regular clothes, and, (once they came out of the dryer) I discovered they were much softer than usual, and they weren’t static-y at all.
After test washing two loads (one pads, one clothes) with the mixture, I decided to go ahead and make a bigger batch to be used for later loads. I have an ice cube tray I had used when making shower bombs as x-mas gifts for friends and family a few years ago that I used, and I used the same formula to make the cubes.
First, I measured out the baking soda into a bowl, then, I very, very slowly (like, 1 tsp at a time slowly) added the vinegar, mixing after each spoonful, to make sure it was fully incorporated. Once thoroughly mixed, I filled the ice cube tray, and let the cubes dry out.
Once they were mostly dry, I turned the cubes out of the tray onto a wire rack (like one used to cool cookies), and let them sit for another 24 hours, just to make sure they were fully dried.
After that, I transferred them to a jar for storage. Then, whenever I needed to do laundry, I could just take a cube and toss it into the water as the washing machine filled up.
This recipe makes 12 cubes, however, you can make the cubes smaller in size, if you aren’t doing big loads of laundry. I have a double load washer, meaning I can fit twice as many clothes in 1 wash as a regular person, so a full cube is perfect for doing those big loads. But if you’re doing clothes for say, one or two people, a half-sized cube should work fine.
You could still use a full cube, since it’s not like it would over-wash your clothes, but if you want to get the most you can out of one batch, I’d recommend making half-sized ones, instead.
Of course, once you make a batch, you can always experiment to see how big of a cube you personally need.
Also, if you’re using it as a toilet bowl cleaner, it’s similar to the washing machine: drop it into the bowl, and then let it sit for a few minutes (I usually do about 5-10) before scrubbing it with the brush. Flush once done scrubbing, and it should be clean and ready to go!
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